Monday, August 04, 2014

Cruising the Web

James Taranto has a lot of fun with the NYT's series on decriminalizing marijuana as they try to argue that it is "slippery" and "unconvincing" for the White House to argue that the drug should remain illegal because of health problems "associated" with increased marijuana use. Taranto notes several examples of the Times calling for increased federal action aimed at other elements "associated" with public health problems such as painkillers, alcohol, sulfur, and even the use of marijuana among minors. Their hypocrisy seems rather "slippery" to me.

Megan McArdle is extremely annoyed at Hollywood for planning to make a movie about the episode when Sixty Minutes aired their story about George W. Bush supposedly going AWOL from the Air National Guard. That story was later debunked as a fake and Dan Rather, whom Redford is scheduled to play, and the CBS producer Mary Mapes, to be played by Cate Blanchett, both lost their jobs. Mapes wrote a self-serving memoir of the event on which the movie will be based. McArdle goes through all the evidence that the story was fake and that Mapes did a poor job of researching the story so that she missed investigating all the problems. It's a trip down memory lane for those who might not remember all the details from "Rathergate" and the role of bloggers and ordinary people working together online to prove the supposed documents demonstrating Bush's behavior and how it was hushed up were fake. Even with all the evidence that came out about the documents and from witnesses, Mapes and Rather refused to believe that Bush was innocent. And what is the likelihood of a HOllyhood movie with Redford and Blanchett playing the two people who are swearing the story is true is going to present a fair story proving the story was fake? As McArdle writes, there would be a better movie about the ordinary people who exposed how the story was bogus and prevented it from influencing the 2004 election. Jim Geraghty says we shouldn't worry since such politicized movies have been failures at the box office. That may be true but the movie will live on at Netflix and will soon become all that most people remember about this episode, just like all many kids know today about JFK's assassination comes from an Oliver Stone movie or the behavior of our armed forces in Vietnam comes from Hollywood stereotypes. It's an infuriating truth, but the dramatists often have the last word on history. Just think of how Richard III's reputation has been shaped for posterity by Shakespeare.

Jeff Greenfield explains the inevitability of the six-year curse.

This is a true scandal - the army is going to release many experienced officers, in order to meet budget cuts. And some of these officers will get their pink slips while they are serving in Afghanistan.
About 550 Army majors, including some serving in Afghanistan, will soon be told they have to leave the service by next spring as part of a budget-driven downsizing of the service.

Gen. John Campbell, the vice chief of the Army, acknowledged Friday that telling troops in a war zone that they're out of a job is a difficult task. But he said some of the soldiers could join the National Guard or the Army Reserve.

The decision to cut Army majors comes on the heels of a move to slash nearly 1,200 captains from the ranks. Army leaders were criticized at the time for giving 48 of them the bad news while they were deployed to Afghanistan.

The Army declined to say how many majors will be notified while they are at the battlefront.
This is penny wise and pound foolish. We will come to regret the loss of the most experienced members of our armed services. These are people, many of whom signed up after 9/11 who will be left jobless and without the pension guarantees if they had been allowed to reach 20 years of service. Yet, we cannot fire the incompetents who messed up the VA services for these same veterans.

Democratic phonies are having trouble pulling the wool over people's eyes.

Apparently, nothing will keep Obama from the golf course.

More evidence that the IRS never targeted progressive groups as they did conservatives.

Since the Kennedys chose one president for us while edging out HIllary Clinton, apparently, they want to choose another one. They seem to like Elizabeth Warren instead of Hillary. Because having one inexperienced leader who has nothing but rhetoric and and membership of an appropriate demographic wasn't enough.

Ross Douthat expresses the concern that anyone who cares about our system of government should feel over the idea that President Obama would unilaterally granting amnesty to a large fraction of illegal immigrants to our country.
It would be lawless, reckless, a leap into the antidemocratic dark.

And an American political class that lets this Rubicon be crossed without demurral will deserve to live with the consequences for the republic, in what remains of this presidency and in presidencies yet to come.
If the president can just rewrite laws willy-nilly without Congress, where will it end? Will liberals be so happy with the precedents they would have approved if a future Republican president did the same?

Historian and former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren has written a moving defense of Zionism.
Indeed, by just about any international criteria, Israel is not only successful but flourishing. The population is annually rated among the happiest, healthiest and most educated in the world. Life expectancy in Israel, reflecting its superb universal health-care system, significantly exceeds America's and that of most European countries. Unemployment is low, the economy robust. A global leader in innovation, Israel is home to R&D centers of some 300 high-tech companies, including Apple, Intel and Motorola. The beaches are teeming, the rock music is awesome, and the food is off the Zagat charts.

The democratic ideals integral to Zionist thought have withstood pressures that have precipitated coups and revolutions in numerous other nations. Today, Israel is one of the few states—along with Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.—that has never known a second of nondemocratic governance.

These accomplishments would be sufficiently astonishing if attained in North America or Northern Europe. But Zionism has prospered in the supremely inhospitable—indeed, lethal—environment of the Middle East. Two hours' drive east of the bustling nightclubs of Tel Aviv—less than the distance between New York and Philadelphia—is Jordan, home to more than a half million refugees from Syria's civil war. Traveling north from Tel Aviv for four hours would bring that driver to war-ravaged Damascus or, heading east, to the carnage in western Iraq. Turning south, in the time it takes to reach San Francisco from Los Angeles, the traveler would find himself in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

In a region reeling with ethnic strife and religious bloodshed, Zionism has engendered a multiethnic, multiracial and religiously diverse society. Arabs serve in the Israel Defense Forces, in the Knesset and on the Supreme Court. While Christian communities of the Middle East are steadily eradicated, Israel's continues to grow. Israeli Arab Christians are, in fact, on average better educated and more affluent than Israeli Jews.

In view of these monumental achievements, one might think that Zionism would be admired rather than deplored. But Zionism stands accused of thwarting the national aspirations of Palestine's indigenous inhabitants, of oppressing and dispossessing them.

Never mind that the Jews were natives of the land—its Arabic place names reveal Hebrew palimpsests—millennia before the Palestinians or the rise of Palestinian nationalism. Never mind that in 1937, 1947, 2000 and 2008, the Palestinians received offers to divide the land and rejected them, usually with violence. And never mind that the majority of Zionism's adherents today still stand ready to share their patrimony in return for recognition of Jewish statehood and peace.

The response to date has been, at best, a refusal to remain at the negotiating table or, at worst, war. But Israelis refuse to relinquish the hope of resuming negotiations with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. To live in peace and security with our Palestinian neighbors remains the Zionist dream.
Oren recognizes the failures of Israel and the contined challenges they face. But, as he points out, for all that people still immigrate to Israel and explains his own personal choice to move to Israel.
After working on a kibbutz—a communal farm—I made aliyah and trained as a paratrooper. I participated in several wars, and my children have served as well, sometimes in battle. Our family has taken shelter from Iraqi Scuds and Hamas M-75s, and a suicide bomber killed one of our closest relatives.

Despite these trials, my Zionist life has been immensely fulfilling. And the reason wasn't Zionism's successes—not the Nobel Prizes gleaned by Israeli scholars, not the Israeli cures for chronic diseases or the breakthroughs in alternative energy. The reason—paradoxically, perhaps—was Zionism's failures.

Failure is the price of sovereignty. Statehood means making hard and often agonizing choices—whether to attack Hamas in Palestinian neighborhoods, for example, or to suffer rocket strikes on our own territory. It requires reconciling our desire to be enlightened with our longing to remain alive. Most onerously, sovereignty involves assuming responsibility. Zionism, in my definition, means Jewish responsibility. It means taking responsibility for our infrastructure, our defense, our society and the soul of our state. It is easy to claim responsibility for victories; setbacks are far harder to embrace.

But that is precisely the lure of Zionism. Growing up in America, I felt grateful to be born in a time when Jews could assume sovereign responsibilities. Statehood is messy, but I regarded that mess as a blessing denied to my forefathers for 2,000 years. I still feel privileged today, even as Israel grapples with circumstances that are at once perilous, painful and unjust. Fighting terrorists who shoot at us from behind their own children, our children in uniform continue to be killed and wounded while much of the world brands them as war criminals.
Yet Israel's enemies refer to Zionism in the same sentence as Nazism and genocide. Such lies tell us what we need to know about their thinking.

Jon Voight pens an open letter to anti-Israel celebrities. Well done.